Owners Can Learn More About First Aid From A Veterinarian

What are your experiences with getting and giving an education about handling horse medical emergencies?
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“What can your veterinarian teach you as a horse owner (or an interested emergency responder) to make you better at offering first aid to a large animal?” I asked this question of horse people, veterinarians, and technicians. The intent of this post is to include all aspects of a response to a situation – from triage to TPRs to giving first aid. Let’s talk about where our focus for education should start.

What to Learn

Dr. Kim and Dr. Jenn (I’m only using their first names) jumped right in and led with a short list that many agreed with. “I’d like owners to learn a lot more about:

  1. Basic colic assessment;
  2. Wounds, including when it’s okay to clean and bandage, vs. when to bereally worried (e.g., wounds over joints, excessive bleeding, non-weightbearing lameness, etc.);
  3. Eye problems;
  4. Giving medications and vaccinations safely (particularly injections);
  5. Taking a TPR (temperature/pulse/respirations) safely anddoing a basic interpretation of results that can be transmitted to the veterinarian. This includes a mucous membrane assessment;
  6. Basic bandaging of limbs, feet, and head;
  7. Legalities of doing all of the above to a horse that’snot your own (as in, don’t cross the line of “playing vet” unless you are one, or you’re opening yourself up to liability and potentially prosecution, and the limits of Good Samaritan laws); and
  8. Basic initial wound care (what not to put on is asimportant as what to put on a wound).

Wendi added to this list “Teach owners and emergency responders how to assess a situation and knowing when NOT to treat and to wait/call/communicate with a vet beforehand is just as important. Avoid overzealousness in an emergency, which can compound the situation, specifically regarding injectables, with the potential to compromise treatment protocol depending on the injury, blood loss, dehydration, etc.”
Kayleen mentioned: “Learn basic anatomy and how to take vitals — you would be amazed at how many people can’t find their horse’s pulse but will
hand out a business card that says ‘equine professional’ or ‘professional trainer.’ Endurance clubs are always looking for volunteers to TPR for pre-vetting and ride-vetting, perhaps that’s a great way for ‘newbies’ to get some great hands on experience under the supervision and access of a great team of vets

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Written by:

Rebecca Gimenez Husted, BS, PhD, is the primary instructor and president of Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. Her first book, Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, was published in 2008. She is an internationally sought instructor in technical rescue techniques, procedures, and methodologies, and she has published numerous critiques, articles and journal submissions on horse safety, technical large animal rescue and horse handling issues.

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